Gaining confidence as a DIYer isn’t just about mastering the tools—it depends equally on using the right products. There’s a huge variety of options at the lumber yard or hardware store, and it's easy to get lost trying to figure out which is right for you. Join me in this series as I shop the Dunn Lumber aisles for a few of my favorite products and share some tips and tricks for using them.

Today, we’re talking about exterior stains. It can be overwhelming to choose from all the different products you’ll find at your lumber yard or building center, but it’s not as hard to find what you need as you may think. Here, we’ll cover what’s available from the Penofin line and explain the difference between products. Watch the video above or read below for a summary of our advice.

What is Penofin, and how do you use it?

Penofin is a brand known for its penetrating oil finish. Like most exterior stain brands, Penofin will work on decks, siding, fences, and even wood furniture. Most of their products are transparent, which means the grain of the wood will show through. 

How to start a staining project

Before you start staining, you’ll need some other products to help prep the wood. The first step in any good staining project is cleaning, using a solution like Penofin Pro-Tech Wood Cleaner—you want to begin with a nice surface of whatever you’re staining. Hopefully, you’ll just need to do basic maintenance cleaning, then you might need a brightener, like Penofin Pro-Tech Wood Brightener, to enhance the wood’s original color. If you need to remove an old finish, you’ll need to start with a stripper, like Penofin Pro-Tech Wood Stripper, and then follow with cleaner and brightener.  

Remember to let the wood dry before you start staining!

Which Penofin exterior stains work for different projects

Once the wood is completely clean and dry, it’s time to stain. When picking a stain, you want to make sure it works with your wood type or exterior material and will leave the color or finish you’re going for.

Penofin Ultra Premium Red Label

Penofin’s Ultra Premium Red Label line comes in a number of transparent colors, from clear to dark brown. What you choose is mostly a matter of taste, but remember that a clear or light brown stain does not provide as much sun protection as a darker stain, so you’ll need to re-coat more often. Dark brown stains have more pigment in them, so they offer more protection from the sun. 

Penofin Hardwood Formula

Penofin’s line of hardwood stains with a bronze label is specifically designed for exotic hardwood decking, like ipe. Ipe wood is very dense and tight-grained, making it hard for oils to soak in. Penofin has formulated the bronze label, so it soaks in easily and provides the protection needed. It comes in different colors as well. 

Penofin Architectural Grade Finishes

In Penofin’s Architectural Grade line, the TSF Hardwood offers a satin finish, while the TMF Harwood offers a matte finish. The product is designed for longevity. You’ll re-coat less often with this product, but it costs a little bit more than other lines. 

Penofin Verde

Penofin’s Verde line, or green line, is a low-VOC product. VOC (volatile organic compounds) refers to the chemicals that give paint and stain products their characteristic odor. Low-VOC products are formulated with fewer volatile organic compounds, meaning they have low odor—so low, in fact, that you can use them safely for an interior project.

Penofin RenewAll

Finally, Penofin’s RenewAll line for decks and concrete is designed to rejuvenate old, tired decks and surfaces. Available in a few different colors, it’s like a really thick paint that goes on to seal cracks and give a new look to an old surface. 

Bonus: LifeTime® Wood Treatment

Another popular wood stain that’s not from Penofin is LifeTime® Wood Treatment. It’s a non-toxic wood stain powder that you mix with water to create a solution that you can then spray, roll, or brush onto your wood. As the name implies—you apply it once, and you never have to re-coat. The finish results in a slightly weathered look, so if you prefer another finish, you’re best off with a different product. However, if you like the look, you can’t beat the convenience of a one-time application!  

Looking for more DIY tips and tricks? Check out our guide to choosing the right wood stain, or learn how to apply clear finish to wood.